Raising Responsible Kids
By: Mary Lou Edgar
Most of our children exhibit challenging behaviors. Isn’t that true? One thing we learn early in our training is that adoption is different because the children have experienced trauma in their lives. We need to keep that in mind when we are parenting. “Because youth in foster care (and adoption) are communicating as much or more so with behavior rather than words, we must pay close attention to understand what needs they are trying to meet. Youth with trauma histories also commonly (mis)behave in ways that keep caretakers at an emotionally safe distance as a way to protect themselves.” (Fostering Families, March-April, 2020) At A Better Chance for Our Children we encourage families to try the Love and Logic method of parenting. Honestly, it works for all kids so you don’t have to stress about what you are doing. We like this model because it guides children and teens to solve their own problems. Doesn’t that sound like a great idea? When parents are faced with a behavior that needs a response, they use a five step method to give the problem back to the child and allow him/her to solve it. First, parents need to really listen ( no interrupting) with empathy. Try to understand how this was (and will be) for your child. Next, ask “What do you think you are going to do?” Then wait for an answer, don’t provide one. Thirdly, when they shrug their shoulders in an attempt to just get you to yell at them and then buy them a new bike, ask “ Would you like to hear what some other kids have tried?” The reason you ask about other kids instead of just saying “would you like some suggestions” is because they respect their peers more than you at that moment. And, you need to stay out of it. If they say no, respect that and say you will give them some time (not long) to come up with an answer to their dilemma. If they say yes, give them three or four possible solutions – no more than that! After each one, ask “how will that work for you?” There are two important points to this. If you are offering a solution, you must be okay with it. It is good to offer something funny or ridiculous but if your kid picks it (and it probably won’t work), you have to live with it without judgment. Finally, allow children to learn from the happy or sad consequences of their choice.
For example, let’s say Johnny left his new bike outside and it is stolen. What does a parent do? Many parents yell and scream and then buy a new bike. That makes this their problem. And parents are usually not happy. But whose problem is it? Right, it is Johnny’s problem. So, the parent listens, says how hard and how sad this is and genuinely feels badly. The parent then asks Johnny what he plans to do. He says he doesn’t know. The parents ask if he wants suggestions of what other kids have done. Johnny says yes – he is despondent but he says yes. He is still hoping for the yelling/getting a new bike strategy that is used so often by parents. So his dad makes three suggestions. The first one is that he could go door to door, asking people if they would like to donate to a fund to get him a new bike. His dad says how would that work for you. Johnny says not well, everyone would think he couldn’t take care of his bike. Dad must resist the temptation to say “well, you can’t.” His dad then offers that he could take some money from the bank and buy a second hand bike. Johnny doesn’t want to do that, the bike would not be as nice as his was. Finally, his dad says that he can work at home to make the money to buy a new bike. It may not be as nice as his other one but he can work until he has earned enough money for a bike and then his dad will go with him to buy it. Johnny is not happy that he has to wait for his bike, but that gives him incentive to work harder. And who is Johnny mad at? Not his dad, he is mad at himself. He learns a bit about responsibility. This is good stuff! Call ABCFOC and learn about when our next classes are. You may want to sign up!